Why NHL in Vegas is a low-stakes gamble—but is it most deserving?

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The ‘best’ cities for NHL expansion

By Elliot Chan, Opinions Editor
Formerly published in the Other Press. Oct. 1, 2015

The National Hockey League has kept their cards close to their chest in terms of when and where the next expansion franchise—if there is one—will be. As far as competition goes, Las Vegas and Quebec City are the two frontrunners, being the only two cities to submit their $10 million application fee. While eyes are on the prize, both of those cities have things working against them when it comes to adopting a NHL franchise.

Las Vegas, known for its sultry heat and abundant amount of entertainment, may seem like a bizarre place to watch hockey. In addition, having never been home to a major sports team, Las Vegas doesn’t inspire a lot of confidence. Bets are on for whether such a venture would be successful or not. We would hate to see it become another inescapable desert disappointment, (cough cough) Phoenix, I mean, Arizona.

All I can say is that the heat will not be what harms their chances; it will be the fan base. At the moment, Hockey Vision Las Vegas, an organization seeking committed hockey fans to buy tickets, is aiming to convince the league that there is a strong desire for hockey. I believe there is a fan base in Vegas, but not necessarily from the locals.

Las Vegas is a vacation hotspot with 40 million people visiting in 2014—many of whom came during the winter season, i.e., hockey season. This is a perfect opportunity to lure in spectators who would not have an opportunity to see hockey otherwise.

I know that Vancouver fans will happily drop $500 for flights and an all-inclusive trip to Vegas to see a Canucks away game against the Las Vegas team. But would those living in the Sin City bother seeing their own team? The fact is that any Canadian hockey fans would be excited to see their team in Vegas, but if that’s the case, why not have the expansion take place closer to home?

Seeing Winnipeg get a team back in 2011 must have given Quebec City a lot of hope. The reason they lost the Nordiques in 1995 to Colorado was because their facilities could not match the new NHL standards. That’s all changed now; the Videotron Centre gives the city some legs to stand on when trying to earn the NHL’s attention. It’s designed with hockey as its sole purpose. With that being the case, it’s just a matter of time before hockey returns to French Canada.

However, Quebec could get a franchise again via a different route: the Carolina Hurricanes have been rumoured to be on the move. This means the former Hartford Whalers franchise could possibly move north of the border… wouldn’t that be nice?

Las Vegas and Quebec City are as different as cities come, but for hockey, I believe these two places are apt choices. Nevertheless, I hate seeing so many NHL franchises concentrated on the East Coast. We are due for a couple of purely western teams. For selfish reasons, I would rather see an expansion team in Seattle or Portland before a team in Quebec City. One thing lacking for Vancouver fans is an opportunity to go on road trips to see our regional rivals. If Seattle can make a push when the next expansion round comes around, that would be exciting news. But for now we’ll take what we can get, and be happy we don’t live in Atlanta.

Lost Vegas

by Elliot Chan

I was somewhere on Las Vegas Boulevard heading south from my hotel, which seemed like a mirage in the distance. I was 18 years old, too young to enjoy any standard entertainment and too old to tag along with my family.

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Vegas was a sad place for a family vacation. My father and I would hop about from one slot machine to the next, fearful to commit, but too curious to worry. My mother would attempt to wrangle us all together for quality time. At night we would see shows and eat buffets, but the days were long and there weren’t much for an adolescent boy to do.

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We weren’t staying long, just four nights. And in that short amount of time, I managed a lot of walking—but I refer to it as an urban hike. On my own I wandered the promenades searching for something spectacular. There weren’t many streets like it in the world. There were landmarks on every corner and swarms of tourist crisscrossing, traveling from one hotel to the next with no intention of staying.

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The day was hot and I was already too far-gone. I would enter a hotel for rest, savoring the theme of each casino as if it was some novel location. I enjoyed the idea of a place in the world where nobody really lived in, where everyone was just visiting. A part of me feels like this is how every city should be, how all citizens should be—Nomadic, just aimlessly wandering, winning and losing.

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Outside I could only locate myself by the signs and building structures. Bellagio, MGM Grand and Treasure Island, everything seemed so close at a glance, but that was Vegas’ greatest illusion. The city is deceptively big, and my attempt to visit every hotel on the block was a failure.

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I took a wrong exit out of MGM and ended up on a highway. I went back in, wandered around for a bit, looking the proper exit and for the prize lion they have locked up behind glass, but the cage was being cleaned and all that was there were two maintenance men. I eventually found another exit that didn’t look familiar. It was too late though; I was already on the move.

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I left the strip and was struck with a moment of fright when I crossed through a construction site. A new hotel perhaps, should be ready for accommodations the next time I visit. Until then, I needed to find my way back to my current hotel, miles away.

The gulls it takes to call a place “paradise”. A man hands me a couple prostitute trading cards. How delightful. I tuck it into my pocket and continue on my way. I arrive at a courtyard at Caesars Palace. I snap some pictures of statues and monuments and realized what I was doing. I was fooling myself into believe I was some place special. I was in Rome, New York, Paris, and Egypt. Vegas is a travelers’ lie. Too frightened to travel? Don’t want to deal with language barrier or snooty locals? Well Vegas.

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For vacationers, Vegas can be a terrific all-inclusive experience, but for travelers, Vegas is a warm up, an appetizer or even just a menu. Nobody really gets lost there, they just get returned.